Jesse Eisenberg and Justin Timberlake
in David Fincher's The Social Network
I first heard about Facebook at university, around 2004/2005. At the time, I was studying at King's College, London. Everybody at King's was on Facebook. Like for most universities, there was a special category for us on the website: our own network. But one day in class there was a heated debate going on about this new rival to Hi5 (you remember that other social networking site that was so hot before Facebook?)
In the middle of a class on moral philosophy, fellow student Rob passionately argued that the whole idea of Facebook was premised around elitism and exclusivity. At the time, I remember thinking, "gee what's Rob going on and on about? It's just a website! Relax bro! Sheesh." Rob then segued into further arguments about capitalistic society and Weber's iron cage.
When I then spent a year in Belgium at one of the oldest universities in Europe, Facebook became an invaluable tool to stay in touch with my friends. Once more, the website's designers had created a special network for the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (believe it or not). This was a good way for me to stay in touch with old pals in London and to form new links with people I met in Belgium and elsewhere. Surely this Facebook thing was wonderful! How democratic!
Andrew Garfield and Jesse Eisenberg in David Fincher's The Social Network
Well low and behold, the new David Fincher film about Facebook, The Social Network, kinda makes it clear that the initial strategy of Facebook was, indeed, an appeal to the elitism of prestigious universities. It is now obvious that that original stroke of marketing genius, so crucial in getting word of mouth going in Facebook's first few months, was crucial to Facebook's success and is why a site like Hi5 has not done as well.
Facebook is no longer tied to that idea of exclusivity. But the feeling is still unsavory given how this film dramatises the life of Facebook's founder Mark Whatshisname.
The Fincher film is excellent, if a bit verbose (what do you expect from something written by Aaron Sorkin, writer of the ridiculously eloquent TV show The West Wing?). At its heart is a deeply observed character study that raises universal questions about friendship and dishonesty. It will also make you reconsider your Facebook profile.Well, at least for a while.
I await the 'Twitter' movie...
Rated: ***** FIVE STARS.